Technology

Small Wind Installer Training Curriculum

With support from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security, Windustry partnered with wind installer experts to develop a Small Wind Installer Training Curriculum designed to prepare technical students for engagement in the growing small wind industry. Working with two of the nation's foremost small wind installers and trainers, Windustry created a cutting edge, state-of-the-art curriculum.

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Is Wind Electricity Right for You?

Bergey Excel-S wind turbine
The Bergey Excel-S is a popular small wind turbine.

Home Power magazine publishes an annual Wind Turbine Guide for considering and planning a wind energy electric system for home, farm, or business. The 2011 guide "Is Wind Electricity Right for You?" covers site evaluation, towers, and turbine choices. Wind energy experts Ian Woofenden and Mick Sagrillo review 24 small wind turbines with a detailed table of specifications along with wind installer survey results.

“Wind electricity is an enticing technology, drawing attention to itself with every turn of the blade,” states the Home Power article. “But for the uneducated consumer, wind power can end up being the most disappointing of renewable energy technologies. This is not because it’s a hopeless endeavor to capture the energy in the wind, but because it’s a difficult job. Unfortunately, the technology also seems to attract more backyard ‘inventors’ and hucksters than other renewable technologies.”

The complete article “Is Wind Electricity Right for You?” can be downloaded as an Adobe Reader document from the Home Power website.

DOE Announces Funding Opportunity for Enhancing Short-Term Wind Forecasting

U.S. Department of Energy

June, 2010 - Washington DC — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced funding for up to $6 million over two years to improve short-term wind energy forecasting. The funding will support projects that enhance the ability of utilities and electricity grid operators to forecast when and where generation from wind power will take place, allowing for improved utility operations. Electricity grid operators depend on accurate wind forecasts to predict and plan for the energy output of wind power plants in their system. By more accurately forecasting wind conditions up to six hours ahead, utilities operators can better predict the power generation of their wind plants, which reduces the cost and increases the reliability of integrating wind energy into the electricity grid. Improved wind forecasting has the potential to achieve substantial savings in annual grid production costs, and these benefits are expected to increase significantly as national wind deployment accelerates. Innovation in this area will help wind and other renewable energy sources meet more and more of the nation's energy demand.

One to two competitively-selected funding recipient team(s) will work with DOE and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to deploy atmospheric measurement systems, make their data available for use in advanced weather prediction systems to improve short-term turbine-level wind forecasts, and demonstrate the value of these forecasting improvements for electric utility operations. The recipient team(s) will include wind plant operators, wind forecasting and meteorological services companies, electric utility system operators, and research organizations.

DOE will provide $2 million this year to NOAA to fund its technical support of the selected projects and will provide an additional $1 million to the one or two competitively selected awardees. DOE also anticipates providing an additional $3 million in fiscal year 2011 to NOAA and the recipient team(s) for completing the project. Specifically, NOAA will support the project with research instrumentation, advanced weather modeling, and expertise in meteorology. NOAA will deploy and operate a network of sophisticated atmospheric instrumentation in the region identified and supported by the recipient team(s), and incorporate data from this network and other sources into an advanced weather forecast model to provide higher precision wind forecasts, allowing the recipient team(s) to improve wind plant power forecasts for more economic and reliable utility operations.

The complete Funding Opportunity Announcement can be viewed at the FedConnect Web site.

DOE to Invest $6 Million in Midsize Wind Turbine Technology Development

U.S. Department of Energy

Washington DC — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the availability of up to $6 million to advance midsize wind turbine technology in order to boost the speed and scale of midsize turbine deployment. DOE will provide the funding over two years to accelerate the development, testing, and commercialization of domestically manufactured, midsize wind turbines with rated generating capacities between 100 kilowatts and 1 megawatt. Through this funding opportunity, DOE will leverage private-sector technology investment by providing cost-shared partnerships to qualified projects in support of the Administration's drive to create clean-energy jobs, and promote economic development and energy independence. DOE anticipates making up to four initial grants under this competitive solicitation.

Midsize turbines are used at schools, farms, factories, private and public facilities, remote locations, and community and tribal wind projects to generate renewable electricity. The size of these turbines allows them to be installed on the site of electricity use, thus minimizing the need for new electric transmission lines. However, the market for midsize turbines has lagged behind the growing markets for both utility-scale turbines larger than 1 megawatt and for small turbines under 100 kilowatts.

This funding opportunity from DOE will help address two major reasons for the slow growth in the midsize turbine market-namely, the scarcity of midsize turbine models available for purchase and unfavorable project economics-by supporting the development of innovative technologies that lower the installed costs and improve the productivity of midsize turbines. In addition, this funding opportunity will promote the utilization of U.S. manufacturers and supply chain vendors.

For more details, view the Funding Opportunity Announcement.

For more information on how DOE works to develop wind technologies, visit the Wind and Water Power Program web site.  

Offshore Wind Potential in the United States

Floating Wind Turbine ConceptsIn June, a large-scale floating turbine was installed off the coast of Norway by companies StatoilHydro and Siemens. The floating turbine, dubbed the Hywind, is located in water that is about 700 feet deep. This is significantly deeper than previously installed offshore turbines whose fixed-bottom structures required a water depth of only about 100 feet.

The United States has yet to install any offshore wind turbines, partially because appropriate turbine designs, like the floating turbines, are still being researched, said Jason Jonkman, a senior engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

"Offshore wind energy must progress in stages in the U.S.," he said. "Before deepwater floating wind energy can become a reality, we must ‘get our feet wet' so to say by first installing fixed-bottom offshore wind turbines in shallow water, less than 30m. Once we have experience with that technology, we can move to deeper water."

Another roadblock in U.S. offshore projects is inconsistent permitting practices. Since offshore ownership varies greatly from the east and west coasts, the Great Lakes, and the southern gulfs, leasing conditions have not been streamlined, said Katie Roek, an attorney with Stoel Rivers LLP who has extensive experience wind energy projects.

She explained that the east coast's Outer Continental Shelf is under jurisdiction of the Minerals Management Service, which has just recently finalized leasing licenses. The Great Lakes, however, do not have an agency like the MMS overseeing broad leasing regulations. It is instead each state's responsibility to develop their own leasing practices to use with the Lakes' main permitting agent, the Army Corps of Engineers. Until the states can establish their own leasing practices, the only offshore projects that can possibly go online in the U.S. are located on the Outer Continental Shelf.

"The Great Lakes are basically five to seven years behind the Outer Continental Shelf," Roek said. The controversial Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, for example, has now been approved by the MMS, while all projects proposed for the Great Lakes have stalled.

But that doesn't mean Great Lakes offshore projects won't happen. Michigan, for instance, already has a joint process for putting structures like barges in the Great Lakes, so they could adapt that permitting process for wind turbines, Roek said, rather than creating a new process from scratch.

Ohio is probably furthest along with tapping the Great Lakes' wind resources, since their offshore potential in Lake Erie could generate more than 100 percent of their electricity needs, Roek said. One of the biggest steps Ohio and other states must take is establishing incentives for utility companies, since the average cost of installing an offshore turbine is double that of onshore. This, along with conducting preliminary zoning work to determine the best locations for offshore turbines, will help the Great Lake states make offshore projects more feasible.

Examples of proposed U.S. offshore projects:
 

CAPE WIND - Nantucket Sound: Massachusetts 

Project: Proposes 130 turbines on Horseshoe Shoal about 5 miles south off the coast of Cape Cod.
Current status: Waiting on permitting - The final Environmental Impact Statement by the Minerals Management Service was released in January and found no serious environmental hazard, but the MMS still needs to issue its formal record of decision before Cape Wind can move forward.
What's next: Federal Aviation Administration must still give clearance, and mandatory consultations with Wampagnoag tribes and historic agencies must be conducted.

OFFSHORE WIND PARK (Developed by Bluewater Wind) -  Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Delaware

Project: Hopes to install 150 turbines approximately 14 miles from shore.
Current status:
In June, the Secretary of the Interior issued an exploratory lease to build a meteorological tower that will collect information on wind speed, direction and intensity to determine feasability.
What's next: Developers hope to build a meteorological tower during the winter and begin ocean operation in spring 2010.

RADIAL WIND - Lake Michigan: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana

Project: Calls for 390 turbines about 18 miles east of Milwaukee in the area known as the Mid-Lake Plateau, which is shallower than the rest of the lake (about 130 to 260 feet, opposed to 600-plus feet elsewhere).
Current status: On hold because of lack of technology for mounting turbines in 200 feet of water.
What's next: Developers hope to secure permitting in spring 2011, with a ground breaking the following year.

View full size diagram
Illustration: U.S. Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory
 

How big are wind turbines?

Wind turbines range in size from tiny micro turbines to enormous utility scale power production facilities. Large turbines may have blades that are over 50 meters long - meaning the rotor diameter would be over 100 meters long - more than the length of a football field! The commercial-scale turbines are often placed on 100 meter towers, so the tip of the blades might reach as high as 160 meters (525 feet) in the air.

Smaller home- or farm-sized turbines usually have a rotor diameter of up to 15 meters (50 feet) and can be placed on 30 to nearly 50 meter towers.

Our scale of wind power diagram depicts the different sizes of wind turbines and the generation capabilities:

(click to enlarge)

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